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Gore called for the government to help “our struggling auto giants” switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. He said, “An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid.” Currently, there is not a single all-electric vehicle offered by a major automaker.
But the American auto industry appears reluctant to make such a switch. One day prior to Gore’s speech, automakers gathered at an energy security conference organized by 2020 Vision, a non-profit, characterized the current interest in plug-in vehicles as a fad and a “solution of the week,” according to a report on ClimateWire, an environmental news service. Speaking at the event, General Motors’ Keith Cole, director of legislative and regulatory affairs, said, “We can’t afford to run a business in that kind of scatterbrained approach.”
Toyota’s Tom Stricker, national manager of technical and regulatory affairs, pointed out that it took 15 years to bring gas-electric hybrids from concept to its current market level—still not quite 3 percent of the new car market. “We have to make vehicles that our customers are going to buy.” To bring about a real change, Stricker said, car shoppers are going to have to show a lot more interest in alternatives like hybrids and electric cars.